People sometimes talk about seeing our pets as family members as if it’s a new trend (here’s one example of an article from The Guardian). But some of the world’s most famous pet memorials are a reminder that many humans and animals have shared an incredible bond throughout time.
Here are just a few of the wonderful and famous pet memorials that tell a story about the enduring love between humans and their animal kin.
1. Greyfriars Bobby
Greyfriars Bobby is legendary, so much so that his story has been the subject of many books and several films, including a Disney production in 1961.
The best-known version of the story is that Bobby, a Skye terrier, lived with John Gray, a night watchman for the Edinburgh police. When John Gray died and was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, his canine companion is said to have loyally waited near his grave for the next 14 years.
When Bobby died in 1872, he was buried just inside Greyfriars cemetery near John Gray. A year later, a statue was commissioned and erected opposite the entrance to the graveyard, where it remains today. Bobby’s collar and bowl are still on display in the Museum of Edinburgh.
While books have been written that dispute the story of Greyfriars Bobby’s (arguing that he was simply a stray dog who lived in the kirkyard), this little dog remains an abiding symbol of love and loyalty.
Hachiko was a Japanese Akita, born in November 1923. He soon became the loyal companion of Hidesaburo Ueno, a professor at the Tokyo Imperial University.
Every evening after work, Ueno would catch a train to Shibuya Station where Hachiko would be patiently waiting to greet him before the pair walked home together.
Tragically, Ueno died suddenly of a cerebral haemorrhage while at work in May 1925.
For the remainder of his life – nine years, nine months and fifteen days – Hachiko lived as a street dog. He returned to Shibuya Station every evening at precisely the time Ueno’s usual train was due to arrive in the hope of being reunited with his human friend.
The people of Japan came to view Hachiko as a symbol of family loyalty. When Hachiko eventually died, he was cremated and his ashes were laid to rest beside those of his beloved Ueno.
Today, there are various statues of Hachiko in Japan. The one outside Shibuya Station is a popular meeting spot.
Every year, on 8th March, hundreds of dog lovers flock there to honour Hachiko’s devotion with a remembrance ceremony.
3. Emily the Cow
On 14th November 1995, Emily, a three-year-old heifer, escaped from a slaughterhouse in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, by jumping a 5ft gate just moments before she would have been killed.
For the next 40 days, in record amounts of snow, Emily evaded capture, aided and abetted by some of the local townspeople. Several times, she was spotted running with a herd of deer.
When Emily was eventually captured, a local family bought her from the slaughterhouse for just $1 and took her to live out the rest of her days at a sanctuary at The Peace Abbey.
Over the next eight years, people travelled from far and wide to visit Emily, who was loved for her calm and gentle nature. She became a living symbol for animal rights and veganism.
Sadly, Emily died of uterine cancer at 11 years old. She was buried at The Peace Abbey between statues of Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi. Later, a life-size bronze statue of Emily was placed over her grave and people still visit it today.
Fala, a Scottish terrier, was American President Franklin D Roosevelt’s last and favourite dog. Although the little dog officially lived at the White House, he accompanied Roosevelt to many official events. He was even made an honorary private in the US army!
In 1944, Roosevelt’s Republican opponents in Congress accused the President of accidentally leaving Fala on the Aleutian Islands while on tour there and sending a US Navy Destroyer to retrieve his beloved pooch at massive cost to US taxpayers.
The story was made up but Roosevelt referenced it in a speech at the start of his 1944 Presidential campaign, saying that Fala had not been the same dog since hearing the lies about his human and that he (Roosevelt), while used to hearing “falsehoods” about himself, had the “right to resent, to object, to libellous statements about (his) dog”.
At the moment when President Roosevelt died in 1945, it’s said that Fala leapt to his feet, broke his way through a screen door and ran into the garden, barking in a frenzy. When he reached high ground, he stood frozen, staring at something unseen.
Roosevelt’s widow, Eleanor, cared for Fala for the rest of his days but said he never fully recovered from losing the President. When he died two days before his 12th birthday, Fala was buried just 10 feet away from President Roosevelt.
A statue of Fala sits next to a statue of Roosevelt in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington.
Trim was a tenacious little cat born in 1799 on board the ship HMS Reliance during a voyage from the Cape of Good Hope to Botany Bay.
When he was just weeks old, Trim fell overboard into the ocean but managed to claw hold of a rope and scale his way back to the ship’s deck. This show of grit made him a firm favourite among the crew, particularly renowned explorer Captain Matthew Flinders.
Trim later went on to sail around the continent with Flinders on the HMS Investigator, and the intrepid duo survived the shipwreck of HMS Porpoise in 1803.
Shortly afterwards, Flinders was accused of spying and imprisoned by the French on Mauritius on his return journey to England. Trim remained Flinders’ loyal companion during this time in prison, until one day he went missing, believed to have been killed.
Flinders never forgot his feline friend and he wrote about him for many years after his disappearance, including an epitaph that reads:
TO THE MEMORY OF TRIM
The best and most illustrious of his race
The most affectionate of friends,
faithful of servants,
and best of creatures
He made the tour of the globe, and a voyage to Australia,
which he circumnavigated, and was ever the
delight and pleasure of his fellow voyagers
Several statues of Captain Flinders depict Trim between his feet or resting against his side, honouring the deep love the pair shared.
The 18th century English writer and lexicographer, Dr Samuel Johnson, is said to have been devoted to his pets, in particular, his favourite cat, Hodge.
Accounts from the time talk about Johnson personally buying food for Hodge because he was worried that his servants would find shopping for a cat degrading and that they might take it out on Hodge.
Johnson wrote about Hodge often, as did other famous writers such as Samuel Beckett, and a neighbour observed that the cat would always give a grateful purr when Johnson stopped to stroke him.
When Hodge was dying, Johnson bought herbal remedies to ease his friend’s suffering.
Today, Hodge is remembered in the form of a bronze statue in Gough Square, London, outside the home he shared with Johnson. The inscription beneath the statue reads, “A very fine cat indeed”, which is how Johnson once described his favourite furry friend.
7. Street Cat Bob
In 2007, James Bowen was enrolled in a methadone programme, begging and busking in Covent Garden and living in supported housing. One evening, he found a little ginger cat in the hallway of this building. Over the coming days, he realised that no one was caring for the cat who desperately needed treatment for an infected wound on his leg.
It was the start of a life-changing friendship.
Once the cat was healthy, Bowen released him onto the street, hoping he’d find his way back to his original home. The cat, however, had different ideas. He liked this human and wasn’t going anywhere.
James called the cat Bob. Every day, Bob would follow James to the bus, determined to accompany him into the city. Soon, people started to notice the pair, especially as Bob would sit perched on Bowen’s shoulder as he busked or sold The Big Issue. Tourists would take videos of James and Bob and upload them to YouTube, growing their celebrity status.
During this time, Bowen was able to come off methadone. He says caring for Bob gave him a reason to get up every day.
Over the next decade, James co-wrote a number of books about his adventures with Bob. The first book, A Street Cat Called Bob, was adapted for the big screen and released in 2016.
Sadly, Bob – who spent his later life living as an indoor cat – escaped from the house in June 2020 and died after being hit by a car.
In a statement about Bob’s passing, Bowen said: “Bob saved my life. It’s as simple as that. He gave me so much more than companionship. With him at my side, I found a direction and purpose that I’d been missing. The success we achieved together through our books and films was miraculous. He’s met thousands of people, touched millions of lives. There’s never been a cat like him. And never will again.
“I feel like the light has gone out in my life. I will never forget him.”
James unveiled a bronze statue of Bob in Islington Green, London, in June 2021. He is now a successful author who dedicates his time to helping charities that involve homelessness, literacy and animal welfare.
Other famous pet memorials
History shows that there have always been those of us who cherish the bond with our pets and that they are far more than “just a dog/cat/horse/rabbit/bird” etc.
These are just a handful of the famous pet memorials that can be found around the world. Of course, there are thousands of other memorials that celebrate pets who may not have been famous but who will live on in the hearts of the humans who loved them forever.
Before you go, why not create a virtual memorial to your precious pet on The Ralph Site?
As always, know that you are not alone.
Very best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support